CornellCare: University to Charge Students $350 ‘Health Fee’ for Not Purchasing Student Health Insurance

President Skorton: "For the common good" | Vice President Murphy: Gannett "in deficit"  Students are expressing outrage at yet another hike in the cost of attending Cornell. Earlier today, Feb. 5, University President David Skorton sent an email to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students announcing a "student health fee" of $350 to be levied on all students who do not purchase Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) from the University next academic year. Since this is a fee, and not a tuition hike, most likely financial aid will not go to covering this cost. According to Skorton, this fee will affect approximately 70% of undergrads, 10% of graduate students, and 30% of professional students. Given the number of students in each of these categories, this fee should raise about $3.9 million. Skorton's email cites "inequitable access to care" as the reason for introducing this student health fee. In a Cornell Chronicle report, Dr. Janet Corson-Rikert, associate vice president for campus health and director of Gannett Health Services, cites the rising cost of healthcare. At a Student Assembly meeting held later in the day, Skorton said this fee was "done for the common good" and referred to it as a "reliable revenue stream" for Gannett, which has experienced a growing number of patients over the years and currently operates at a deficit. Skorton argued that the "tightness on the bottom line" prevented the vitality of the current allocation model of allocating university funds to Gannett. Skorton also said there is a need for Gannett to be ready for unpredictable, large-scale disease outbreaks or similar health scares.

In the email Skorton writes: “Quality medical, mental health, education and prevention services play a critical role in student well-being and, therefore, success. Yet funding these services – and creating access to them for all students – has been a growing fiscal challenge, and a personal concern of mine…  Although introducing a new fee is never desirable, moving to a model that includes a health fee – a standard in college health nationwide – will make student costs more predictable and encourage them to seek the care they need.” The full email can be viewed below.

The University will levy the fee on all students opting out of purchasing SHIP regardless of whether or not they use Gannett, the on-campus health center. In the email, Skorton writes that for most visits, students will pay a $10 copay. The email does not mention any changes to the price of SHIP, which costed $2352 for the 2014-2015 academic year according to the Office of Student Health Insurance. SHIP is not required of Cornell students; many opt-out because they have health insurance already.

SHIP is administered via Aetna, a health insurance provider. Aetna’s CEO, Mike Bertolini ’84, is a Cornell MBA grad.

In September 2013 the Cornell Daily Sun reported Gannett was trying to fundraise $18.3 million via donations for a $55 million expansion and renovation project to be completed in 2017. The same report quotes Vice President Susan Murphy ’73 Ph.D. ’94 saying that fundraising would need to be completed by January 2015 in order for the renovations and expansions to go through. There have been so reports of late with updates on the status of this funding.

At the Student Assembly meeting, Skorton was asked by an audience member about Gannett’s deficit, which originated during the 2009-10 school year when the campus experienced a rash of suicides and an H1N1 virus scare. This put large strains on campus health services, according to Skorton, and the decision to increase staff, including mental health professionals, created a deficit that still exists today. In response to the question, Skorton was indirect, admitting “some of that” of money would go to the deficit, but it was unclear if “that” was a reference to the fee itself.

Skorton Email

11 Comments on CornellCare: University to Charge Students $350 ‘Health Fee’ for Not Purchasing Student Health Insurance

  1. Just another reason to have a one payer system to cover everyone everywhere. Simpler and cheaper in the long run.

    • Gannett is already extremely inefficient and provides low-quality care. Why? Because it’s not driven by a profit-motive. Rather, it’s treated as a community jobs program. Skorton and Murphy basically said this at the SA meeting. They’re not willing to let go staff in order to eliminate deficits. I talked to a former SA member, and he told me administrators would tell them they are reluctant to fire workers because of negative local public relations. So instead we see them squeeze the families of students who live across the country.

    • No matter the “Insurance” you have — even “Single Payer” (ie: Medicare/Medicaid), you need to watch how you are admitted for Hospitalization. Under Medicare/Medicaid rules hospitals are being penalized for return “hospitalizations” of the same patient; it doesn’t matter if a person was successfully treated but have a relapse — if they return for a stay at the hospital within a short period (21 days…) then the hospital is penalized. The hospitals have, in order to not be penalized, started an administrative “trick” called “Swing Bed.” It’s the exact same thing as regular admission, however if the patient is out within 72-hours then they are not actually admitted (They are, for administrative purposes, kept as “Swing Bed”…) and if they return the process can start all over — even if that return is just a few hours later. I’ve seen our local hospital do this, and got so disgusted with it that I quit. (Sigh) However, I don’t blame just them, I blame how the Government is crafting how Medicare/Medicaid is penalizing them — and paying them — for patient treatment. It isn’t about quality…it’s about quantity. Sure, it’s called “Quality”…but it all comes down to the “Bean Counters” getting involved and coming up with creative ways to squeeze the Hospitals & Doctors. (Shrug) Our Town — small as it is — used to have 4-Doctors who took Medicare/Medicaid 5-years ago. Today, not one will take any new patients on Medicare/Medicaid, and they have to either drive nearly 50-miles to see a Doctor or be seen in the Emergency Room.

      Problem with the “Swing Bed” is, the rest of the Insurance Industry is beginning to jump on the bandwagon…and it will only be a matter of time before most — if not all — of the Insurance Companies are penalizing hospitals for return “hospitalizations.”

      So…before you wish for a “Single Payer” System, how about we work out the bugs in what we have at the Government Level.

      Oh…and don’t get me started on the Veteran’s Administration. I’m in that one…and it’s even worse than Medicare/Medicaid.

      Anyway…I hope things work out for all of you at Cornell University. I don’t think that students who already have Insurance should have to pay a “Fee” (Penalty really) for already having Health Insurance.

      Peace…and, please make the world a better place.

      ~ Fred

    • Like the post office?

    • Joseph asserts that a federally-run single payer system of financing the provision of healthcare in America will be “simpler and cheaper in the long run.”

      To understand how a domestic “single payer system” will function, simply take a look at America’s current single payer system, the Veterans Administration. Perhaps a single payer system is cheaper in the long run . . . because in this business model, medical care is depersonalized, delayed, and denied:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VA_scandal

      Recall that several years ago, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center near our nation’s Capitol was shuttered. It had been the Department of Defense’s flagship hospital for a hundred years. By the mid-2000s it had become overrun by roaches, vermin, and scandals:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Reed_Army_Medical_Center_neglect_scandal

      The public cost for its replacement facility more than doubled from the initial estimate . . . to $2.6 billion:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Reed_Army_Medical_Center#2005_BRAC_recommendation_and_2011_closure

      “Cheaper”, and government-run, are mutually exclusive. While less money may ultimately be expended on providing medical care, you will see a lot of this:

      http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/02/12/boston-transit-system-gm-reportedly-racked-up-over-56g-in-travel-expenses/
      http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/13/john-kitzhaber-resign-oregon-governor-report/

      Publicly-funded healthcare on a nationwide scale will be like all other publicly-funded government endeavors: an inefficient, wasteful, bloated bureaucracy where the customer comes last, the taxpayers be damned, administrators feather their nest, and everything is politicized. And do not fail to consider the likelihood that IRS-style abuses will occur with regular frequency. If the president is a democrat and you happened to have donated to the GOP, then guess what . . . your “AmeriCare” number seems to have become invalidated for reasons unknown. But don’t worry, just fill out this stack of papers and the attached intrusive questionnaire, show us four forms of identification and your entire medical records since birth, and we’ll get back to you in 90 days, if your aneurysm hasn’t ruptured by then:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_Revenue_Service#Controversies

      Don’t forget that lying on federal forms, including leaving out pertinent medical history, is a felony.

      If you understand nothing else, then realize this: the single payer health models leads to systematic perverse incentives to withhold treatment. Indeed this results in “simpler and cheaper”, by some measures.

      What is the factual basis, Joseph, behind your assertion?

      David Breznick MD
      a physician in private practice 20+ years

      • the people who advocate for single payer also have money to burn for their unicorns.

      • Hi Doc. Here is some data for you to think about.
        I want to remind you of something that you already know, as a physician pf 20 plus years. Health INSURANCE companies provide absolutely no health care. NONE. ZERO. They are middle men. And the idea that somehow health insurance companies are less bureaucratic than Medicare or the VA does not stand up to scrutiny. At least not for those of us who have been denied coverage by the private health insurer. (Yes, I have been denied a number of times. If the sate of NY had not gotten involved I would still be left without payment by my “insurance” company.)
        1.Medicare costs rose by an average of 4.3% from 1997 to 2009. Private insurance rates rose on an average of 6.5% over the same period.
        2.The CBO has determined (estimated) that if Medicare costs rose at the rate of private insurance the actual cost to a retiree would be 40% more.
        3. The Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that while the average administrative costs of Medicare are 2%, the average administrative costs collected by private insurers is a minimum of 17% and probably higher. This represents additional costs to consumers with no increase in quality of medical care .
        http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2011/09/20/medicare-is-more-efficient-than-private-insurance/

        Something else to think about. Every American gets Medicare at 65. This is the time of life when you are going to need more medical care. More hospital time. And this is when, after years of paying for private health insurance, you get dumped on the public system. So, private insurers do not face the kind of costs for caring for aging patients that Medicare does. They have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in premiums but do not have to pay out when coverage becomes expensive. Great business model. Even so, the Medicare system provides much cheaper (in terms of administrative costs) care. And coverage is guaranteed. Something which health insurance companies did not have to do before the ACA.
        This is not to suggest that the public systems like Medicare and the VA are perfect. Far from it. But compared to private insurance companies they are much more efficient and cost effective. That is, if you think the goal of the health care system is to provide all citizens with access to basic quality health care.
        One way to settle the issue is simple. Allow all Americans to enroll in Medicare at any age. They we will see if the private insurance monopolies can compete. Let the people decide. What could be better than that?
        http://www.josephurban.wordpress.com

  2. Here is an excerpt from Cornell President Skorton’s recent e-mail. It exposes the hypocrisy of Cornell’s SHIP.

    “Students on SHIP have comprehensive health insurance with low costs on campus and in Ithaca, and coverage anywhere in the world they may travel; but too many other students have inequitable access to care. For example, a growing number of students with private insurance report avoiding care due to financial concerns.”

    Cornell students who purchase SHIP may develop a medical condition while away from Ithaca. For example, if one begins to have an exacerbation of asthma or symptoms of acute appendicitis while visiting Manhattan, he or she may defer medical treatment owing to the increased personal expense that will be incurred when outside of the Ithaca region. During the 6-hour bus ride back to Ithaca, the medical condition will worsen.

    SHIP enrollees will avoid care due to financial concerns. This inarguably represents inequitable access to health care. I do not like having to pay the punitive new fee that Cornell will impose, but this is preferable to purchasing its SHIP. My family’s private health insurance has no such geographical coverage limitations. That is what matters most now, as wel as in the long run.

  3. Utopia isn’t free, and it’s always more fun when you’re spending someone else’s money. Welcome to The Village!

  4. Welcome to the real world. Cornell students have a very legitimate gripe, but so do the rest of us, who opposed this ideological monster child called Obamacare from the very beginning. It only passed because its ugliness and impracticality were obscured by a dense fog of deliberate lies.

    Richard Reed, Cornell ’64

  5. I understand why privileged students don’t want to pay more to help others. That’s how rich people roll.
    Sadly, these spoiled children have no problem letting it be known how greedy they are as they complain about not wanting to pay more.

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